Summertime is ripe for creativity. When I think of summer, I think of adventure and exploration, of trying new things, lazy mornings, books by the pool, and popsicles at all hours of the day.
Summer is for creating. It’s for stepping away from the every day mundane that dictated your life, and stepping into something new and exciting – even if only for a time.
I try to offer my children a long creative rope in the summer. If I’m honest, there are times when I wish we lived at the edge of the Wisconsin woods, but those times are only in the summer months when the Florida sun is merciless, and the flat terrain leaves little to the imagination. But then we have evenings like the one we had Friday night, where we swim as a family in the great, big ocean, and I decide Florida’s not so bad after all.
But I do long to see my kids explore. I wish I could send them into the trees with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a roll of toilet paper, and firm instructions to stay outside and enjoy this beautiful day.
I may not be able to shoo them outside for an entire day, but I can offer them plenty of places to escape. Exploration isn’t limited to the forest. It can happen right here inside the walls of our home. Here are a few tips for widening your children’s creative scope this summer.
1.) Build Forts
Basically, when summertime rolls around, I take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s okay for the house to be messy. I like order. I really, REALLY like order.
But I have four children, so order is a laughable concept. Instead of sweating out the ever chaotic house, I choose to embrace it in the summer. And there is nothing more chaotic to me than a bedroom transformed into a fort – blankets strewn this way and that, kitchen chairs pulled into the room to hold up the “walls” of the fort.
It’s enough to give me an eye twitch.
But they love it. Reading books is boring…unless it’s done so lying back on a pile of pillows under the canopy of a bedroom fort.
If I’m willing to embrace the chaos, a bedroom fort is a heckuva way to celebrate summer.
2.) Keep Painting Materials Handy
Like fort building, watercolor painting makes my heart race, and not in a good way. The paint brushes that need to be cleaned. The drips of paint that find their way to my countertops and floor, the gigantic “masterpieces” that I must find a way to display – it’s all stressful to this orderly Mama.
The other day, my concrete, typically unimaginative second born pulled out the paints and tore off a giant piece of art paper, and she began to create. With her tongue stuck between her lips in quiet concentration, she dove into her painting, and when she was finished she held up her paper proudly.
It was gorgeous.
There’s something very calming and magical about putting a brush against the page. When the kids are arguing, painting is one of the first activities I suggest because is requires a deep breath…and minimal talking.
3.) Read Good Books
I don’t have readers. I wish that I did, but I simply do not. My children don’t like to read books. So I do what any good mother would do.
I bribe them.
Yes, I pay my children to read in the summer, but really I like to think I’m training them to enjoy the gift of words. There is nothing I love more than seeing my kids light up over a good story. And so we spend time in the library during the summer where they’re given the freedom to choose their own adventure.
This discipline of reading is two-fold, as I must also make myself slow down and read with them. I want to show them the beauty of getting lost in story, so I read as much as I can in the summer.
As much as I love reading, slowing down myself to do so is harder than it seems it should be, because usually when they’re still and quiet, my first response is to start cleaning up some of the messes.
LET THE MESSES GO!
That is my summertime mantra.
Summertime can be stressful with everyone home at once, all the live-long day. This is where our Summertime Agenda of Awesome comes in handy, as well as a willingness to let go of my need for order and control.
A little bit of chaos has the potential to produce some magical days. I’m looking for the magic this year.
Last year, I posted this photo of a sign I hung on our laundry room door. It boldly proclaimed the plans for our Summertime Agenda of Awesome:
We really did have an agenda that was packed full of awesome last year, and this year proves to be shaping up nicely as plans are finalized, and preparations are made for trips and visitors.
But still, in the busy and the crazy and the constant Go-Go-Go of life, I want to make sure we take some time to just breathe. Because the temptation is to fill up every square moment of the days until suddenly school starts again, and one more summer is gone as life continues to chug full speed ahead toward kids graduating.
Sloan starts middle school next year.
Hang on. I need a moment to process what I just wrote.
Middle. Freaking. School.
We only have eight summers left before he goes to college. Eight summers left to make memories as an in tact family unit. Eight summers left to explore together while everyone lives under the same roof.
So I’m very conscious of the fact that we need to soak the days up for what they are. A treasured gift. Because some day these kids of mine will be grown and out of the house. And when they leave, I hope they’ll look back on our summers with fondness. I hope the arguments and boredom, and the sense of insanity that always seems to trail behind us like a persistent breeze fade away, leaving nothing but a true sense of nostalgia.
So with that in mind, I’m busy planning this year’s Summertime Agenda of Awesome, and I thought I’d share a few suggestions for all of you so that you could plan your own awesomeness.
1.) Limit technology
Oh, it’s a temptation to let them park in front of the TV and lay around the house, and there are certainly times for that. But summer is also about swimming and basking in the hot sun. It’s is for lemonade and cookies, and falling into bed tired and exhausted after a long day of playing.
Set limits on television and electronics usage, and stick to your guns. The kids will try to talk you out of the limits, and they’ll make persuasive arguments that will sound good when you’re feeling exhausted, but don’t let them wear you down! Offer a lot of alternatives to technology to help them learn to entertain themselves as the lazy days stretch out slowly.
2.) Let them sleep in
Friends, I say this as one who has children who are loathe to sleep late. While there are perks to having early risers (namely getting them out the door during the school year is a breeze), in the summer it is less thrilling to hear them rummaging through the kitchen at 6 am.
So, if you have sleepers, let them sleep in (within reason) as often as possible. And if you don’t, like me, then you’ll simply need to plan on drugging your kids so they sleep longer.
(Unless that’s a possibility, in which case I might not be kidding…)
3.) Stockpile their rooms with books
Make it a habit to visit the library weekly and bring home new books. Because I have children who don’t love reading, I bribe mine to read. They get 1-2 dollars/book depending on length and difficulty. (I might even be inclined to pay more if they read a really hard book, but I’ve never had to cross that bridge.)
Maybe you have strong readers and paying them per book would bankrupt you. Perhaps you put pay them for the number of pages they read (set the number high for the avid reader). Or perhaps you simply offer a fun excursion at the end of the summer if they reach a certain goal.
Whatever you choose, make reading a summer staple, and teach them the art of relaxing with a book rather than relaxing with an iPad. (Hint: You’ll need to lead by example on this one, mom. Stock up your own pile of books as well.)
4.) Plan fun activities
Summer doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find enjoyable summertime activities right in your own backyard if you’re willing to do a little research.
You can also add fun items to the list like painting together (buy up a bunch of paper and water color supplies before school ends and set it in an accessible place), set up a lemonade stand and help the kids raise money to give to a worthy cause.
Let them each pick out a recipe from one of your cookbooks and give them full reign over the kitchen (or age appropriate reign over the kitchen).
There are so many possibilities for summer. When your days stretch from minute to minute, rather than the more hectic hour to hour of the school year, the time to create lasting memories is ripe for the taking.
Of course, the greatest agenda in the world will not prevent those dreaded words of “I’m bored” from slipping out of your children’s mouths, but at least when you hear them you can gesture to the sign on the door and let it be known you’ve done your part in helping them occupy their time.
The rest is up to them.
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